Who’d have thought a freight ship losing its cargo of rubber ducks during a storm out in the Atlantic would result in this novel? But that’s the truth – reading news stories about the flotilla of bath toys got me thinking.

Slowly carried by ocean currents, they were eventually deposited on the British coast. But what if, contained within the ducks, there was a series of notes written by a refugee who’d also been washed from the ship? What if the notes were pieced together and the person’s plight gradually revealed?

So there I had the basis of my story. Other questions quickly followed on. Who was the refugee? Where had the person come from? What was the intended destination?

As the plot took shape, it led me into the controversial area of immigrants and asylum seekers. As luck would have it, Liverpool (an hour’s train journey from Manchester) is home to one of the UK’s two screening centres – Border Agency facilities where every person entering the UK to claim asylum has to report.

The story started taking on a momentum of its own. I certainly had no idea that, in time, I would be writing about MI5 surveillance operations, CIA agents and a fearsome ex-member of Russia’s special forces who is very handy with a garrotte.

And all because those grinning ducks slowly bobbed their way to Britain across thousands of miles of open sea…

Cut Adrift is published by Orion

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